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Parquet Courts’ thought-provoking rock is dancing to a new tune. Sympathy For Life finds the Brooklyn band at both their most instinctive and electronic, spinning their bewitching, psychedelic storytelling into fresh territory, yet maintaining their unique identity.
Built largely from improvised jams, inspired by New York clubs, Primal Scream and Pink Floyd and produced in league with Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Hot Chip, David Byrne), Sympathy For Life was always destined to be dancey. Unlike its globally adored predecessor, 2018’s Wide Awake! the focus fell on grooves rather than rhythm.
“Wide Awake! was a record you could put on at a party,” says co-frontman Austin Brown. “Sympathy For Life is influenced by the party itself. Historically, some amazing rock records been made from mingling in dance music culture – from Talking Heads to Screamadelica. Our goal was to bring that into our own music.”
Walking At A Downtown Pace
Black Widow Spider
Marathon Of Anger
Sympathy For Life
Parquets Courts' fifth album 'Wide Awake!' - produced by Danger Mouse - is a groundbreaking work, an album about independence and individuality but also about collectivity and communitarianism. The songs, written by Andrew Savage and Austin Brown but elevated to even greater heights by the dynamic rhythmic propulsion of Max Savage (drums) and Sean Yeaton (bass), are filled with their traditional punk rock passion, as well as a lyrical tenderness. The record reflects a burgeoning confidence in the band's exploration of new ideas in a hi-fi context.
Before The Water Gets Too High
Mardi Gras Beads
Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience
Back To Earth
Death Will Bring Change
Daniele Luppi, is probably most famous for arranging Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy", but he really caught our attention when he collaborated with Danger Mouse on "Rome" back in 2011. This album sees the Italian composer collaborate with Piccadilly favourites Parquet Courts as he heads north in his native country to bring us "Milano". The album's influence is Milan in the mid 80's and provides us with a snapshot of the city as he remembers it - from the flashy glamour of the time to it's dark underbelly. Parquet Courts do what they do best, providing a raw urgency, with jagged guitars and nonchalant vocals, and Karen O makes a few appearances to add a bit of Yeah Yeah Yeah's swagger to proceedings.
In a way, it's sort of a sequal to "Rome", but it's a very different beast altogether.
Barry says: This collaboration sees Italian composer Daniele Luppi and shop favourites Parquet Courts coming together in a cacophony of snarling indie and clashing energetic percussion, topped (in the most part) by Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeah's fame. Cue much off-kilter rhythmic showboating and moaning vocals. So much so in fact, that Matt asked me if I was listening to porn on my headphones. I was not. Excellent all-round, everything you'd expect from this calibre of musician.
01. Soul And Cigarette
02. Talisa (feat. Karen O)
03. Mount Napoleon
04. Flush (feat. Karen O)
05. Memphis Blues Again
06. Pretty Prizes (feat. Karen O)
07. The Golden Ones (feat. Karen O)
09. Café Flesh
Recorded over the course of a year against a backdrop of personal instability, Human Performance massively expands the idea of what a Parquet Courts record can be. They've been one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the last 5 years; this is the record that backs all those words up.
“Every day it starts, anxiety,” began the first song on 2014’s Content Nausea. Those were essentially the song’s only lyrics, but Human Performance picks up where that thought left off, picking apart the anxieties of modern life: “The unavoidable noise of NYC that can be maddening, the kind of the impossible struggle against clutter, whether it's physical or mental or social,” says singer, guitarist and Human Performance producer/mixer Austin Brown.
There has always been the emotional side of Parquet Courts, which has always had an important balance with the more discussed cerebral side, but Andrew Savage sees Human Performance as a redistribution of weight in that balance. "I began to question my humanity, and if it was always as sincere as I thought, or if it was a performance,” says Savage. “I felt like a sort of malfunctioning apparatus,” he says. “Like a machine programmed to be human showing signs of defect.”
The sonic diversity, time, and existential effort that went into its creation makes Human Performance Parquet Courts' most ambitious record to date. It's a work of incredible creative vision born of seemingly insurmountable adversity. It is also their most accessible record yet.
Darryl says: After bursting on the scene with the explosive and thrilling splendour of “Light Up Gold” (a Piccadilly Records Album Of The Year back in 2013) Parquet Courts seemed to be on a mission to alienate with a succession of somewhat “difficult” releases, the ‘Monastic Living’ EP in particular was a real head scratcher! But thankfully with ‘Human Performance’ the Brooklyn based four piece have rediscovered their smart pop edge.
Kicking off with the upbeat and catchy “Dust”, the band immediately plug in to their trademark “Americana punk” showcasing an uber cool sound that brings to mind the perfect New York lineage of Sonic Youth, Television and The Velvet Underground.
Almost every track on ‘Human Performance’ screams “Single” potential; we have the goofball pop of “I Was Just Here”, “Berlin Got Blurry” and afore mentioned “Dust”; the slacker-rock (dare we say Pavement influences?) of “Paraphased”, “Outside” and “Keep It Even”; the jaunty rumbles of “Pathos Prairie” and “Captive Of The Sun”; the mellow hazy-psych of “Steady On Mind” and the uptempo but chilling “Two Dead Cops”. The title track chronicling a relationship breakdown is a serious song of the year contender with its introspective verses and explosive shouted choruses; and then we have album’s centrepiece, “One Man No City”, a six minute plus drawn-out long-jam epic combining bongos and the jagged guitars of “The Gift” period VU. Lastly, "It's Gonna Happen" is a perfect finale, a brooding refrain that leads out with the reflective “…it’s gonna happen every time so rehearse with me in mind…”
‘Human Performance’ is Parquet Courts reaching a songwriting peak, refined and intelligent off-kilter Brooklyn art-rock.
2. Human Performance
4. I Was Just Here
6. Captive Of The Sun
7. Steady On My Mind
8. On Man, No City
9. Berlin Got Blurry
10. Keep It Even
11. Two Dead Cops
12. Pathos Prairie
13. It's Gonna Happen
The year and change since the release of Parquet Courts monumental 'Light Up Gold' is reflected in ways expected and not with 'Sunbathing Animal', its sharper, harder follow up. Following their quietly released 2011 debut 'American Specialties', 'Light Up Gold' caught the ears of everyone paying even a little bit of attention, garnering glowing reviews across the board for its weird colors and raw energy, saturated punk songs that offered crystal clear lyrical snapshots of city life. It was immediately memorable, a vivid portrait of ragged days, listlessness, aimlessness and urgency, broadcast with the intimacy of hearing a stranger’s thoughts as you passed them on the street.
As it goes with these things, the band went on tour for a short eternity, spending most of 2013 on the road, their sound growing more direct in the process and their observations expanding beyond life at home. Constant touring was broken up by three recording sessions that would make up the new album, and the time spent in transit comes through in repeated lyrical themes of displacement, doubt and situational captivity. To be sure, Sunbathing Animal isn’t a record about hopelessness, as any sort of incarceration implies an understanding of freedom and peace of mind. Fleeting moments of bliss are also captured in its grooves, and extended at length as if to preserve them. Pointed articulations of these ideas are heard as schizoid blues rants, shrill guitar leads, purposefully lengthy repetition and controlled explosions, reaching their peak on the blistering title track. A propulsive projection of how people might play the blues 300 years from now, “Sunbathing Animal” is a roller coaster you can’t get off, moving far too fast and looping into eternity.
Much as Light Up Gold and the subsequent EP Tally All The Things That You Broke offered a uniquely tattered perspective on everyday city life, Sunbathing Animal applies the same layered thoughts and sprawling noise to more cerebral, inward-looking themes. While heightened in its heaviness and mania, the album also represents a huge leap forward in terms of songwriting and vision. Still rooted firmly in the unshackled exploration and bombastic playing of their earlier work, everything here is amplified in its lucidity and intent. The songs wander through threads of blurry brilliance, exhaustion and fury at the hilt of every note. Parquet Courts remain, Austin Brown, A. Savage, Sean Yeaton, and M. Savage.
2. Black And White
3. Dear Ramona
4. What Color Is Blood
5. Vienna II
6. Always Back In Town
7. She’s Rollin
8. Sunbathing Animal
9. Up All Night
10. Instant Disassembly
11. Duckin And Dodgin
12. Raw Milk
13. Into The Garden